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5 Abandoned cities in the world

Lost civilisations, abandoned cities and towns have captivated the imagination of many a generation.

Scientists and historians peel back the layers of history to find out who lived there, what they did, how they lived, ate, what their culture was like and much more.

We're constantly in awe over those that came before us, humbled perhaps by our own mortality but driven to find out more by our thirst for knowledge.

Likewise, we too will peel back some layers as we look at five abandoned cities around the world;

5. Pripyat, Ukraine

When talking about abandoned cities, Pripyat cannot go unmentioned.

The disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 which caused 50,000 people to lose their entire town has been a lingering warning to the dangers of pursuing nuclear energy. 

Or rather, it warns of the dangers of building an entire town around a nuclear reactor.




Although the radiation levels have dropped considerably that guided tours into the abandoned city is now possible, it is not fit for extended stay.

Visitors are also not allowed to enter buildings due to the instability of the structures.

Once, Pripyat was a bustling and lively town.




Now, it is a city taken over by nature, never to be habited by humans again. Grass sprouts wildly and trees grow on roofs and through buildings in this truly post-apocalyptic city.

4. Centralia, Pennsylvania

Despite not being exposed to nuclear radiation, the circumstances which led to an entire town being evicted is no less dire.

After a mine fire that burned beneath the town started creating lethal doses of carbon monoxide to form and fog the town, the citizens were told to leave.

The government issued buyouts for relocations although some families continued to live in the desolate town.




With a population over a 1,000 in 1981, the fire which started in 1962 and never stopped burning forced this town into gradual abandonment.

Today, only a few buildings are left and roads go around where the town used to be. Nature has taken over the area and the entire town has been taken off the map. Officially, it does not exist.




Yet it does, in the minds of its people and popular media where it served as the inspiration for movies and games most notably, ‘Silent Hill'.

3. Detroit, Michigan

Not all of Detroit is abandoned.

Yet the parts that are now no longer occupied are a clear sign of the urban decay that is sweeping over what was America's third largest city.

Detroit was once a thriving city propelled to the top by the car boom in America. It was home to major American automobile factories like Ford and Packard.




However, competition from the international market and the loss of jobs following the decline of the industry saw Detroit slump into bankruptcy - a state it would not recover from.

Today, its population is less than half of what it once had and its employment rate is about 17%.


Detroit is a case study on how putting all eggs in one basket/ industry is inherently a bad move.

2. Pyramiden, Norway

Meaning ‘the pyramid' in Swedish and other Scandinavian languages, Pyramiden was once a coal mining community belonging to Russia.

The area was founded by Sweden in 1910 and sold to the then Soviet Union in 1927.

However, in 1998, the town, commonly known as the ‘Soviet ghost town at the end of the world' was closed and has been abandoned since.




Once it had a population of 1,000, but Pyramiden, named after the pyramid shaped mountain nearby, looks as if the settlement was abandoned in a hurry.

However, frigid temperatures slow down the rate of decay and scientists have theorized that the town's major buildings will be visible 500 years from now.




Recently, the owners have remodelled the hotel in the town, allowing visitors to spend the night. No plans are being made to reopen the entire settlement however.

1. Hashima Island, Japan

Commonly called Guankanjima which means Battleship Island in Japanese, due to its shape, Hashima Island is a perfect example of a city abandoned and isolated from civilisation.

Owned by Mitsubishi and used as a coal mining facility from 1887 to 1974, Hashima at one time, was the densest city in the world.

At its' peak, it had 5,259 inhabitants with a record 835 people over an area that was less than one square kilometre.




During World War 2, the Japanese had forced many Chinese and Korean workers to migrate to the island and work at the coal mines.

After the war was over, living quality gradually improved with cinemas and other recreational hotspots built. Gardens were built on rooftops to bring back some greenery to an island that was once devoid of it.

However, as the world moved toward using oil, coal and coal mining settlements were gradually abandoned. Hashima Island is no different and it has remained in this state of perfect preservation for years. It languished in abandonment for 35 years before it was finally opened for tour trips in April 2009.




It is fascinating to look back at the years, sifting through pictures of cities that were once thriving, bustling places but are now abandoned.

It is fascinating to ponder on the situations that contributed to their eventual abandonment. Whether through economical decline or tragedy, abandoned cities have long been the inspiration behind many books and movies based on post-apocalyptic wastelands and/or horror.

Yet, if anything, these abandoned cities remind us of one thing; that nothing, no matter how great, ever survives forever. Our wealth and prosperity are fleeting and in time, they too will flitter in the wind, together with everything we own.

If there was a message here it would be this; material possessions are temporary. They do not last but we - people- do.

For more pictures of abandoned cities, check out our Pinterest board!

Written by: Christopher Chitty

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